“In his house at R’lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.”
I’ve had H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Call of Cthulhu” in e-book form on my Treo for some time now (reading it slowly in bits and pieces as I found myself with a little time to kill) and finally finished it.
I was first introduced to the Chthulhu mythos back in high school when a buddy of mine in our gaming group bought Chaosium’s RPG of the same name. Up until that point we’d been playing traditional AD&D campaigns and newer games like Shadowrun, TORG, or Amber. CoC was different: 1920s setting, horror genre, gruesome killings, sanity checks, and the occasional dimensional shambler. My friend was big into Lovecraft, as I recall, so running CoC games was his way of sharing his enthusiasm for the genre with us.
The horror element and the chance of having your character go insane was intruiging, but I never really got into it. I was not the best role-player in that I had a hard time becoming the character. I just couldn’t play a 1920s college professor and be serious about it … a source of frustration for the dungeon master, I’m sure. Anyway, the point of all that is that I never actually read the short story that inspired the game. Maybe I would have been more into it if I had.
“The Call of Cthulhu” is written as a first-person narrative. The narrator has found some notes left behind by a dead relative along with a small grotesque statue and through research, investigation, and interviews begins piecing together a story of the Great Old Ones (aliens from beyond the stars), the loathsome cult that worships them, and the ancient city beneath the sea where they sleep “until the stars are ready.” By the end of the story, however, he wishes he had not been able to put everything together … ignorance is bliss sometimes.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”